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Picture 2.pngAs he prepared Tuesday to move into the top creative job at Euro RSCG/Chicago starting Dec. 1, Jason Peterson, 42, was full of high hopes that he will play an instrumental role in helping make Euro one of Chicago's top ad shops. Peterson, of course, wouldn't be the first creative to arrive in Chicago with such an optimistic attitude, only to be quickly forced to confront a less rosy reality.

I've always had a soft spot for Chicago advertising," said Peterson in an interview Tuesday. His first full-time job in advertising was at a small, now defunct Chicago agency. The majority of his career has been in New York. But Peterson said he used to stand in front of the Leo Burnett building and imagine it was Disneyland. If Peterson has been following Burnett in recent years, however, it might be more difficult for him to conjure such a fantasy.

But one thing is certain: Peterson has a big job ahead of him if he is to succeed at making Euro RSCG/Chicago a major player. First he will have to contend with the absence of any significant, high-profile above-the-line accounts. Euro is said to be in hot pursuit of the Sonic fast food chain account, but if the shop doesn't land that piece of business, Peterson will have to look elsewhere for an account that he could parlay into a calling card to attract additional new business to Euro. And new business is what the agency desperately needs to begin to rebound.

Plus, Peterson will have to contend with the fact Euro RSCG's below-the-line business has been the tail wagging the dog for some time now. Absent that, the agency probably would have closed its doors long ago. Peterson expressed excitement about working with Euro leader Ron Bess ("the most genuine man I've met in the business") and with Joy Schwartz and Jamie King, who have been doing most of the hands-on running of Euro RSCG/Chicago and trolling for new business.

But King was a good friend of Steffan Postaer. With Postaer removed from any position of real power, the landscape at Euro RSCG is considerably changed from what it was when King arrived. And sources now say King may not be sticking around much longer to see what Peterson can accomplish.

At Translation/New York, his most recent outpost, Peterson was focused on work aimed at adolescent and young adult demos. He said he wants to run a creative department and work on a "wider palette" now, and he intends to make that happen at Euro RSCG. Peterson plans to move his family to Chicago, so he looks to be serious. As it always does though, only time will tell what Peterson can achieve.

Is a big creative shake-up about to happen -- again -- at Euro RSCG/Chicago? Last summer Blake Ebel abruptly departed the Chicago shop as co-chief creative officer to take a job with a Colorado agency.

Now sources are reporting Steffan Postaer could be the next top creative out the door. Postaer's reign at Euro RSCG has been something considerably less than a complete success. With the blessing of Euro RSCG/Chicago leader Ron Bess, Postaer arrived in 2004 with the goal of helping complete the turnaround of a shop that been struggling for some time.

But Postaer wasn't able to develop much momentum on the new business front. Valspar paint was about as good as it got for the top creative who had helped transform Altoids into an iconic breath mint brand during his long tenure at Leo Burnett/Chicago. Creatively, there were occasional sparks of the sort that he brought to the unconventional Altoids work. But not enough.

To the consternation of some at Euro RSCG/Chicago, Postaer spent much of his free time during his tenure at the agency writing a couple of unusual novels. The latest dealt with a gay decorator, and the author released it chapter by chapter on the Internet.

It's unclear what might be the next step for Postaer. He thought long and hard before casting his fate with Euro RSCG. With the agency business rapidly evolving into something much different than it was even when Postaer came to Euro RSCG, it's hard to say what might be a good fit for him going forward.

Ron Bess.jpgEuro RSCG Worldwide has named Ron Bess president of Euro RSCG North America. Bess was previously chief operating officer of Euro RSCG/North America. Bess will continue to serve as CEO of Euro RSCG/Chicago, where he is based.

Bess's promotion follows last year's rollout of Euro's "digital at the core" strategy and the consolidation of agencies that led to what the network is calling a "future-focused strategy." Bess will work with the region's key CEOs alongside David Jones, Euro RSCG's New York-based global CEO. Ron Berger will continue as Euro RSCG's North American chairman.

As president, Bess will be responsible for the overall profitability and growth of the agencies and nearly 3,000 employees that make up the Euro RSCG network in this region. Bess joined Euro RSCG in 2004 as CEO of the Chicago shop, which he restructured and started to turnaround via the introduction of digital into the agency, as well as a unified management team and single P&L.

King Head Shot.jpgEuro RSCG/Chicago CEO Ron Bess is putting not one, but two agency presidents in place at his agency. He is promoting Joy Schwartz, an executive director and an eight-year veteran at the shop, to the post of co-president, and Bess is bringing in Jamie King, formerly president and CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, to work alongside Schwartz as co-president. Both will report to Bess.

If recent history is any indication, co-presidencies are a dicey proposition at any ad agency. Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin tried such a structure a couple of years ago, and it was a bomb. He brought in Juan Carlos Ortiz from Burnett's Latin American operations to manage alongside Rich Stoddart. Both even sat at desks in the same office. But Ortiz was gone within a year.

A Euro RSCG spokesman insisted King was being brought in to the Chicago agency on his own merits, but King's past ties to Euro RSCG Chief Creative Officer Steffan Postaer can't be discounted as a major factor in King getting the job. Together they ran the Burnett unit known as LB Works, which was eventually dismantled -- a move that did not sit well with Postaer. Both he and King quickly departed Burnett after LB Works was dissolved. Postaer wound up at Euro, and King headed west to Publicis & Hal Riney.

Under the new management arrangement at Euro RSCG, King will focus on new business development, while Schwartz deals with clients and agency operational matters. Schwartz has spent the majority of her years at Euro RSCG working with clients such as Sprint and Citi, which use the agency for direct marketing efforts.

No doubt having King around will make Postaer feel as if he has turned back the clock a bit to a time when he and King happily tended to their own little fiefdom at Leo Burnett.



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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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